Final Verdict: $12 Million Lawsuit Fails
When people think about medical malpractice, they often envision dramatic mistakes like major surgical errors. However, difficulties with prescription drugs are another critical area where medical mistakes are even more common. A doctor may misdiagnose, leading to the patient receiving a drug that’s completely wrong, or the pharmacy may mix up the prescription and give the patient the opposite of what they need (for example, a drug to lower blood pressure when they need a drug to raise blood pressure).
Most commonly, medical malpractice involving prescriptions happens when a drug is prescribed that is usually right for the patient’s condition, but wrong for that specific patient, either because the patient has an independent condition or because the patient is taking other drugs which interfere. Additionally, a drug may be the recommended intervention for a particular condition but have undisclosed side effects which are more severe than the symptoms it is intended to treat. In such situations, physicians should be careful to discuss all possible side effects and ask questions to determine whether a particular drug should be avoided.
Geraldine O’Connell, a 60-year-old retiree in Washington, DC, believed that her physician Assil Saleh had not properly informed her of the risks of warfarin, a blood thinner prescribed to her for genetic blood abnormalities. Warfarin was necessary, but carries risks of bleeding when taken in large doses. Doctors who prescribe warfarin typically recommend the use of International Normalized Ratio (INR) testing to ensure that the blood’s ability to clot remains at acceptable levels.
Two months after Dr. Saleh ordered additional Warfarin, Geraldine suffered a major stroke due to uncontrolled bleeding in her brain. The stroke took place while she was traveling in the United Kingdom with her husband. It left her unable to communicate verbally and in need of 24-hour care, requiring her husband to quit his job in the United Kingdom to take care of her full-time. Geraldine sued Dr. Saleh, arguing that the doctor should have monitored her INR and taken more precautions to warn about the risks of stroke and uncontrolled bleeding. She claimed $3.9 million dollars in medical care and over $4 million dollars for her husband’s lost wages as her caretaker, with a total demand of $12 million for pretrial settlement.
The trial lasted for over a week. Defense experts, arguing on behalf of Dr. Saleh, stated that Geraldine was properly informed of the risks for bleeding and told she needed to monitor her INR on her own. Geraldine’s medical malpractice attorneys, in turn, pointed out that the doctor had prescribed additional warfarin without knowing whether the INR levels were actually being checked, and should be held responsible. Unfortunately for Geraldine, the lack of testing proved to be a problem, as she had no way of showing that the INR levels were in a dangerous range at the time Dr. Saleh prescribed another course of warfarin.
Additionally, Dr. Saleh’s attorneys produced handwritten medical records of instructions provided to Geraldine by the physician and argued that Geraldine failed to follow them. This meant that it was very difficult for her to prove the physician did anything wrong. After two days of deliberation, the Washington, DC jury decided that no medical malpractice had taken place, and the case was closed. If you have questions about a medical malpractice case call an attorney like Cohen & Cohen today.